Jose Bordalas is manager of Getafe, who are fifth in La Liga and outside the Champions League places only on goals scored. The 56-year-old – in his fourth season in charge of the Madrid-based club – discusses the challenges of trying to prepare his team for their return to La Liga action on Friday.
When the coronavirus pandemic and confinement hit us so severely in Spain, there was great concern. For a while there was much speculation that the league would be terminated and we were pessimistic, but little by little the population has been recovering and in the end the decision was made to restart La Liga.
Training in very small groups was very strange at the beginning. But gradually we have been getting to grips with it and at the beginning of last week we all trained together, albeit with strict controls.
Can Getafe qualify for the Champions League?
We have gone from zero to 100 at breakneck speed. We are building a new path as we walk on it.
We have had late nights, talking to players or meeting up with the president, looking at everything that is happening. For instance, the hotel we plan to stay at in Madrid is not open, nor does it have any plans to open in the immediate future. Nor can we install ourselves in just any hotel – it needs to have the correct facilities and the guarantee of the right food preparation that we are accustomed to eating before each game.
We have a multitude of things to sort out that seem insignificant, but are actually very important.
We have been left short of time and this causes us a lot of stress. That said, we are keen to return even though at first it will all feel a bit strange for everyone, because without a crowd the atmosphere will be lost. Our game relies very much on the support of our fans and the pattern of the game can change with fans’ help.
We have kept very close to the players and been concerned about their situation. There were lads who were with their partners, families and their children but others were alone and with those in particular we have been more attentive.
The wife and children of Peter Etebo had gone back to Nigeria and that left him confined on his own, so we tried to keep in regular contact with him.
Peter Etebo joined Getafe on loan from Stoke in January
He told us how sad and how lonely he was feeling, especially because he is a young man who hasn’t mastered the language yet. I also felt a bit guilty in his case because just before the lockdown he asked me if he could go back to Nigeria and I told him he couldn’t. The club had informed me that everyone should stay where they were and that no-one could leave because no-one knew when we would have to return. We never thought that this was going to hit us so hard.
On occasions we have held joint video conferences to speak, hardly ever about football. I am sure I don’t always get it right, but as coach and the person with the most experience at the club it is my responsibility to encourage not just my players but also my assistants, technical staff and all the employees and try to ensure that the mood doesn’t drop so we can return in the best possible frame of mind.
We have done our best to keep them in shape by assigning them a series of tasks. Those who did not have a gym or workout facilities at home were provided with a treadmill, an exercise bike and different materials. They have been well used. They sent us videos and their weight on a daily basis – only a couple of players found it a little bit more difficult to keep the weight down.
When we returned to training the first few days had precious little to do with football, really. The emphasis was on physical tasks. Our biggest concern has been about the physical side of things. There have been overloads and as a result some muscle injuries. We have to do constant assessments and medical and fatigue tests to try to gauge the condition of the players so we can prevent injuries or keep them to a minimum.
On a day-by-day basis we have modified many of the tasks we had originally programmed because we found out that when put into practice they needed to be altered. We have instead opted to do more technical details that prioritised the players familiarising themselves with the ball once again – touch, passing and shooting.
La Liga players returned to training at the end of May
Players have finished training more tired than usual, and we have also put in place ice therapy for everyone because temperatures have risen considerably and we are going to have to play our matches in temperatures of around 30 degrees and even more in the months of June and July.
I am also finishing more tired because I know we are about to enter a very stressful period – in fact, we’re here already – when we are going to have to make absolutely sure that we take care of all the details and arrive back in the best possible condition.
As regards the five changes rule now in place we have an idea as to what we are going to do. It’s true that with smaller teams such as ours your options are perhaps somewhat reduced by the fact that there is more of a difference between those players who usually start and those who don’t. But everything will be controlled according to how the game goes, what the level of fatigue is and what is required at the time.
The good news is – and I have been demanding it for a long time – we can now have 23 players available to us, which means that no-one is marginalised. I have never understood why a squad list has to be made public a day, or even two days, before a game.
As we have seen in the Bundesliga, playing at home without fans mostly benefits the away team. Having that in mind and with the extra rest, some teams may well have changed their objectives now. Athletic Bilbao, for example, will have had their minds firmly focused on the final of the Copa del Rey but that has now been postponed until next season, meaning that their focus now will be solely and exclusively on the league. Teams fighting for relegation might see this new football as a chance to climb on the table.
I believe there will be a number of significant surprises in this final stages.
Bordalas was speaking to BBC Sport’s Guillem Balague